The Celebreality Interview – Nina Poon

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Nina is TRANSform Me‘s style expert, but she is also the show’s comedian and linguist. Outside TRANSform Me she’s just as multi-talented: She moved to New York to do fashion illustration, but she also works as a makeup artist, and when I called her she was in the middle of re-touching a client’s photos. She’s also an actress and model, having starred in Kenneth Cole’s “We All Walk In Different Shoes” ad campaign. Below she talks about why she moved to New York (she was born in Saigon and grew up in Orlando) and explains some of her vocabulary on the show.

Forgive me for stereotyping here, but I know many Asian families can be really conservative. Does that describe your family? How did they feel about your transitioning?

My family are more liberal. In-between liberal and conservative, but more toward liberal. I don’t think any family is OK with their children transitioning because a lot of families aren’t educated so they don’t really know anything [about it]. So when children first transition or tell the news about transitioning to their families, they don’t know how to react. People fear what they don’t know, so that’s what they’re going through. But then once they find out about everything, you know…I told them, they’re fine with it. They’re cool with it.

I was surprised to see that you actually started as an illustrator. You were inspired by Disney animation, right?

Everything from my childhood was Disney. I knew how to draw already, I was really inspired by Disney and I almost went to school in Disney animating class. But it was like, be an artist in New York or be an animator for Disney in Orlando. I said “I know what I’ll take!” But yeah, fashion didn’t really come into my life until my teen years.

What’s your focus right now?

Right now I’m just trying to concentrate on everything. When you live in New York, the bills are high, the rent’s high, you gotta grab that dough. Mainly I want to get another season of the show started. I hope there’s another. And I want to get more acting gigs. But in the meantime I re-touch for a living, and I do make-up.

It seems like, for you and Laverne, growing up in the South and wanting to transition, could be difficult.

I said, “Been there, done it, I’m tired of it.” I wanted something else. I was trying to find find myself and I really didn’t know who I was. Back then there wasn’t an abundance of ways to find out. There wasn’t the internet and it wasn’t on television. Back then you had to ask friend of a friend of a friend what you have to do to transition.

Who did you look up to back then? There certainly weren’t transgendered women on TV.

Transgendered women were around back then, but when I started to transition back then I didn’t have any resources to go to, but I would look up to people I saw on magazines. I didn’t look up to any transgendered women in particular, I just looked up to magazine models. That was my aspiration.

Did you know Laverne and Jamie before the show?

Laverne and I met through a friend, and Jamie and I had met in person. When I met Jamie she was transitioning already and I was transitioning too. I started out as a bumpkin down South but then I moved to New York.

When I spoke with Jamie, she admitted she was the most demure out of the three of you. How did you see yourself on the show?

Knowing these girls, Jamie’s more the posh one, Laverne is the more business-mommy type one, and I’m more keepin’ it real. I like to laugh, I like to make fun of myself at times. I just like to have fun, I’m the fun one.

You’re the one who tells the girls that they have to make their friends jealous.

Women they say dress for themselves, but I think a lot of women dress for other women. If you have your boyfriend, you dress for your boyfriend, but then you want to look good for other women just to make them gag — just to show you’ve got it also.

You use “gag” a lot on the show, I get that, but what’s “gizzled” mean?

Yeah, that’s just another term for gag. I have so many words that I use in my daily vocabulary!

I think I need some vocab lessons. What does “pay it” mean?

“Pay it!” like, “Whatever!” I guess that’s just a term that a lot of trans women — not all — but a lot that I know use.

Any other ones I should know?

I say “kiki” a lot. Like “Oh, let’s go kiki” or “It was a kiki last night.” “Kiki” is just another term for funny, or laughing or fun. For example, “Oh, we had a kiki time last night.” That’s means we had a lot of fun. Or you can say like, “Oh, she’s a kiki.” That means she’s funny. Because people in the gay world would laugh like, “Kikiki,” so that’s where kiki comes from. And then there’s “ovah.” “Ovah” means like, “Ovah the top,” “She looks ovah.” We say that a lot in the show, too.

Oh! I was confused by that because it seemed like you meant it in a good way…

No, ovah’s good. Ovah does not mean that you’re “over.”

Another thing I’ve noticed, is that you usually go for the boobs and butt when you’re doing the styling.

When people want to dress up, they like to look good. And when people are on a diet or whatever, they want to show their boobs and the butt. Not everybody, but people that like to look good. They like to have nice boobs, a nice butt. And if you’re wearing something baggy, you’re not going to show that. So we always accentuate boobs and a waist.

So many women don’t want to show off their butts though.

Right. They want to hide it. A lot of women don’t know how to dress for their body, so that’s why they’re more concerned about them because they’re not dressing right. If you have the proper silhouette, then your booty’s going to look good no matter how big it is.

What do you keep in mind while you look for clothing for the makeovers?

You have to consider when you’re pulling outfits for women, or if you’re pulling outfits for yourself, you have to know how you’re feeling. If you don’t know how you’re feeling, you’re not going to know how you’re going to want to dress. If you don’t know the look you want to give then you’re lost. That’s the first thing.

Now did you start following some of your own advice? I think you promised to start wearing underwear after you fell off the mechanical buffalo.

I did wear underwear yesterday, I have to say. When you wear a really short skirt, you find that out. I found that out during the show.

Keep up with Nina via Twitter, Facebook, or her website.

Related content
Our exclusive video interview with Laverne
TRANSform Me show page
TRANSform Me videos and extras
TRANSform Me fan community
Laverne Cox’s Official Site
Jamie Clayton’s Official Site
Nina Poon Makeup

  1. TrannyAlert! says:

    PLEASE please PLEASE bring back Transform Me for a Season 2!!!!

  2. Miss Thing says:

    I love this show! Please, please, please make more episodes!

  3. Jessica Parker says:

    hello this is Jessica Parker from Great Falls MT. i am trying to help my mom. Shes a 38 year old and wants to be differnet. shes had this same look for years. Shes so nagitve about her self and hates her look. Im scared that she will end up alone. So please transform my mother?(:

  4. gretchen says:

    i have a question for nina: in one episode you sported an AWESOME pink skull necklace. maybe the 3rd or 4th episode? can you please, please, please tell me where you got it?? thanks so much!!!